Before last summer you might have known me by my bio as Jochebed Bogunjoko, a person who did a great job pretending to be happy, healthy, maybe even wealthy, and a woman that I never truly was.
That was until July, when I finally accepted the reality I’d been trying to outrun for years; ever since I read the story of my fellow Williams graduate Nakesha in the NY Times in March of 2018, “A Bright Light Dimmed in the Shadows of Homelessness”, and it clicked for me that it would be my story too if I didn't try and fundamentally change the investment world that structures society to produce death, disease, and disability for profit. I knew because investing was my job, and I knew I could only keep masking and pretending what we call "US democracy" hasn't always just been a well-advertised dystopia, for so long.
Well, I tried. And, I failed; but, I did make a difference.
You might have seen the results of my work in this Barron's article about racial equity last year. I happened to see it the day after it was published, having looked away from the coup taking place at the Capitol to read the LinkedIn notification on my phone and quite literally weep. I thought about everything that had gone into writing the thesis I’d started in college now playing out on screen or the business strategy for Tiedemann that I’d nearly killed myself advocating for now being implemented without me.
Or, you might have seen my work nominated for this award along with major executives, or seen my Primer on Racial Equity Investing featured by the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, or seen me pushing the leaders of the ASBC and RFK Human Rights Foundation to dissociate from prisons and policing completely, or helping get the Juvenile Restoration Act passed in Maryland, or telling NY's largest foundations that their investments in Big Pharma companies engaging in vaccine apartheid as business planning were financing genocide.
But despite admitting my expertise was invaluable and having budgets for projects and panels I was expected to work on for free or next to nothing, none of this work or the research that went into it was enough to convince investors or investor-serving nonprofits that I deserved just compensation in return for my life's worth.
You see, the reality is this: if you’re Black, Indigenous, disabled, neurodivergent, trans or nonbinary, or just living in poverty, the US government wants you dead, or in prison, for the benefit of my former bosses' and clients' investment portfolios; the wealthy who finance the impoverishment industrial complex that keeps you in debt, unsupported, sick or suicidal long enough for politicians and their corporate owners to profit from institutionalized eugenicism.
So I left my Investment Analyst job and then investing altogether, and that’s how I ended up
here in "the D".
In July, Erin Gilmer was suicided and I gave up on performing "ok" since someone whose truth meant the world to me, who lived their pain so publicly hadn’t found solace either. Pretending I could outrun fate wasn’t going to prepare me for it, so I decided I had to get a van.
My parent's house has never been a home or a safe place for me to exist truthfully; not since childhood, when at 7 or 8, my mother's response to why there were only two of us kids was that they "already had a girl and a boy so another one might be a hermaphrodite and we couldn't have that" or during regular beatings for defending myself from constant accusations of "sinning"; not since college when I finally admitted I wasn't a Christian and was locked in a motel for a weekend and told that wasn't a choice I could make myself if I wanted support until I gave in and just lied instead; or two summers ago when my brother threatened and attempted to drive our family into another state and then off the road until I tried jumping out of the car, and I was reprimanded for provoking him by stating what I needed instead of a walk while recovering from COVID, was rest.
So since August, I’ve lived mostly out of the cab with Pluto, the puppy I adopted by pawning my TV on a mad dash to the Humane Society before I lost my apartment and a space to welcome him “home.” With this van secured with a deposit paid by GoFundMe and financial support from people who believe financial support and love are the same but demand the slow suicide and soft lies of Christian compliance in exchange, I’ve stayed off the street. I am grateful, of course, but I refuse to go back to giving up my autonomy, bodily sovereignty, or “God-given” right to independent thought as thanks.
I never got a chance to do a conversion because, unsurprisingly, a white man decided calling the sheriff and threatening a lawsuit on a paying Black client was his only means of conflict resolution. For a month after that, I lived in and loved a shed, survived off solar power and propane, and tried to regroup. What do with this van and all these supplies and no means to pay for a place to put them to use? The drive to the shed offered no cover to hide my squatting from CMPD but plenty of opportunity for popped tires.
There were some stops in between then and now, like leaving the next squat spot in Historic Brattonsville - home of the man who inspired the very KKK I’ve studied since college - driving out to a giant field of ripe cotton overdue for picking just in time to cross paths with an ATV with a little kid riding between the handles, sitting in front of 3 hunting rifles pointed directly at me.
“Can I help you?” his dad said, as they slowed to stop and I stopped too because, you know, the rifles.
I’ve survived, regrouped, and replanned in a tent and a barn too. In the process, after too many times being accused of being a man by white ladies after using the restroom I was assigned at birth, I left NC for good and drove to Detroit: the one place in the world I’d ever felt at home, and where there'd be houses priced within reach. I figured if I wanted to build my dream of saving Black peoples from the eugenicists I used to work for, the Blackest place I could reach by van was the best place to be.